Paine College could learn the fate of its accreditation in August, according to the rules of its accrediting agency.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted last week to remove Paine from its membership and on Thursday it formally posted its decision. The group said Paine failed to meet three standards for finances: financial resources and stability; financial stability; control of sponsored research/external funds.
A letter will be mailed to Paine on July 6 and the college will have 10 days once it receives the letter to notify the agency if it plans to appeal, said Dr. Pamela Cravey, coordinator of communications and external affairs. Paine officials have already said they plan to appeal the decision. Paine remains accredited by the agency during the appeal.
Paine board chair-elect Michael Thurmond has pointed to a part of the appeals procedure that says an institution can overturn a decision to remove it solely for financial reasons “if it presents new and verifiable financial information that has become available since the adverse action was taken” that presents the institution in a better light. He said Paine had raised a record $3.1 million this fiscal year and beginning July 1 will have its first balanced budget in 14 years. Paine is also seeking to raise at least $1 million before the end of its fiscal year on June 30.
Cravey said a school has recently won an appeal by presenting new evidence. According to its 2014 Annual Report, Brewton-Parker College of Mount Vernon, Ga., the commission removed the college in June 2014 for some of the same financial reasons for which Paine was cited and that college appealed. The Appeals Committee found the college “produced evidence it had new, verifiable financial information material” to the decision and sent the case back to the commission to decide.
Brewton-Parker was reaffirmed and removed from sanctions, according to the annual report,
According to the official decision posted Thursday, Paine was removed from membership because it failed to meet financial standards that it “has a sound financial base and financial stability to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs.” It must also show “a recent financial history that demonstrates financial stability” and that it “maintains financial control over externally funded or sponsored research and programs.”
Thurmond said that last violation stemmed from an incident in December when an official incorrectly accessed federal funding but he said an audit showed no other violations. Paine has also “exhausted its two-year period on probation,” the decision noted.
Paine’s appeal will be decided by a 12-member Appeals Committee that will meet the third week of August. Because of the conflict of interest rules, none of the committee members can be employed in Georgia or have voted on Paine’s accreditation status previously or have any ties to the college.
Paine must put up $15,000 to cover the costs of the appeal. It can only appeal that the committee failed to follow its own procedures or that the decision “was arbitrary, that is, was unreasonable and not based on or consistent with” its own principles, according to regulations. New financial information can be submitted in Paine’s case because it was removed solely based on finances.
The appeal will be heard by a three-person committee and within seven days of the hearing the committee must inform the agency and Paine of its decision in writing. The burden of proof is on Paine to show the decision was wrong.
A Paine spokeswoman said the school could not make anyone available to comment Thursday. Accreditation by a regional body like SACS is necessary for students at the school to receive federal student aid and for participation in other federal programs.